Is apologetics relevant to today’s Church?
Is there a place for Christian apologetics in the contemporary church? Is apologetics a leftover from a previous era and no longer relevant to this postmodern world? Should we just focus on creating community and facilitating worship services where people can experience God?
While those who have what Gary Thomas calls the intellectual pathway for connecting with God may see apologetics as important, it would be nice to have some hard evidence for the value of Christian apologetics.
We now have such evidence.
The Pew Research Centre recently did a study of why the ‘nones’ no longer attend church. These ‘nones’ are those who indicate no religion when asked about religious affiliation. They are not necessarily atheists, although some are. Rather, they are those who refuse to affiliate with any one organized religion. They are also the fastest growing group in the most recent religion surveys.
Pew discovered that many of these ‘nones’ (78%) were raised as members of a religious group before leaving it as an adult. While there are various reasons why they left their religion, the biggest reason (49%) was that of a lack of belief.
Michael Lipka makes the following observation about the results in an article on the Pew website.
About half of current religious “nones” who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God.
These are exactly the type of issues that Christian apologists have been seeking to address.
Those in the church who object to apologetics often have a narrow and simplistic idea of what apologetics is. They imagine an angry Christian attempting to bully a seeker into faith with a barrage of intellectual apologetics.
While a small minority of apologists may be like that, many more are seeking to facilitate discussions in which seekers, skeptics and Christians can discuss the difficult questions in a respectful and reasonable manner.
Even if a pastor or other church leaders does not naturally connect with the apologetic approach, the research numbers cannot be ignored. If almost half of those who will become ‘nones’ are struggling with intellectual questions, the church has a duty to create a culture where these questions can be addressed and not dismissed.
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